On Saturday in Helsinki, Finland the Chicago Blackhawks won a big game against the Florida Panthers 4-0, and now head home three points ahead of winless Detroit.
What made the outcome on Saturday interesting was that rookie goalie Antti Niemi stopped all 23 shots he faced just one day after Cristobal Huet blew three separate leads against the same Panthers team. Indeed, the Blackhawks offense showed that it can score when they want to (seven goals in two games), but the wild card this season will be competent play in net for Chicago.
Huet struggled in the season opener; Niemi was solid the next day. Chicago doesn’t have a quarterback controversy any more, but could a debate begin surrounding these two goalies?
Last year, the Hawks gave Huet a bigger contract than he probably deserved to bolster their defense. Once Huet was signed, the team tried to sell Nikolai Khabibulin to anyone that would take him, and ended up stuck with him. Khabibulin won the starting job and was outstanding all season, carrying the youngest team in the league to the Western Conference Finals.
Huet was far from exceptional in the preseason, and Niemi won a stiffly contested open tryout with Corey Crawford for the backup job.
Granted, it has only been two games, but the knock on Huet during his career is that he drops too quickly and has a vulnerable top shelf. Every goal the Panthers scored on Friday were high shots.
If the season progresses and Huet continues to struggle, there might be discussion of Niemi getting more chances to be the Number One goalie.